back to article At last, someone's taking Apple to task for, uh, not turning on iPhone FM radio chips

FCC boss Ajit Pai has publicly criticized Apple for not turning on the FM radio receivers in every iPhone – calling it a public safety issue. "In recent years, I have repeatedly called on the wireless industry to activate the FM chips that are already installed in almost all smartphones sold in the United States," the US comms …


  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "When wireless networks go down during a natural disaster, smartphones with activated FM chips can allow Americans to get vital access to life-saving information,"

    So any other nationalities caught in the danger area don't get warnings?

    Really, is it so hard to say "people"?

    1. Diogenes

      They probably do it for the same reason that US and state flags are everywhere...

      Usaians are so terrible at geography they need to be continually reminded where they are

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        They probably do it for the same reason that US and state flags are everywhere...

        Usaians are so terrible at geography they need to be continually reminded where they are

        As an American, I can't say you're wrong.

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. whoseyourdaddy

    Apple never used the Qualcomm QTR8600 chip that had the FM radio.

    They used the RTR8600 chip, which couldn't have FM radio, or the audio codec needed to complete the system.

    While 'droids and everyone else used the QTR8600 years back, there's no guarantee anyone connected the FM radio pin on the chip.

    I'm proud to say the only time I've listened to FM radio in the past 15 years was when I was in a random rental car and pushed the wrong button. So, Clearchannel and Sinclair can focus on billboards.

    But, those who can, do. Those who can't, lead the FCC.

  4. Mephistro Silver badge

    "...he failed for several days to address the devastation in Puerto Rico and then spoke repeatedly about its debt problems rather than the humanitarian crisis..."

    Holy shit!

    1. J. Cook Silver badge

      @mephistro: Yep, that's our liar in chief. *shakes head sadly*

      Don't blame me, I sure as hell didn't vote for him.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Bullshit, this current administration is doing a pretty good job in assisting PR, just the MSM and Trump Derangement sufferers can't allow ANY positive news to be circulated about Trump.

      And certainly the politics of PR has contributed to the problems they now have. They are and were broke, and the power system was badly run down and far too prone to outages anyway. PR has been run by Democrat politicians for a very long time, and it shows.

  5. ukgnome Silver badge

    This seems to be a double win for painters and decorators.

    They get to be popular whilst people huddle around their paint splattered FM radio and tout for business at the same time.

    1. TWB

      My decorator...

      ...has a DAB radio - woo hoo!

      I am not a convert to DAB - I nearly only ever listen to Radio 4 and have it on in many rooms at once on multiple radios so would have to change all of them to DAB to keep everything in sync. I don't understand the push for DAB over FM - yes it is supposed to go up to 20kHz but I'm not listening in a silent environment and my hearing rolls off at 13k...could they not cram the metadata* into the RDS part of the signal? (I really ought to know the correct terminology here)

      [*station name, frequency, programme, song title - what else do I need - I'll watch TV if I want pictures]

      I don't see the need for great numbers of radio stations - I'd prefer a narrow choice of quality rather than a wide choice of crap.

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: My decorator...

        "I don't see the need for great numbers of radio stations - I'd prefer a narrow choice of quality rather than a wide choice of crap."
        Good luck with that! We had an excellent radio station here in Oz called DIG Radio (digital broadcast in the TV spectrum). They played a very wide variety of high quality, but not mainstream popular music from the 1930s to the present. Then the manglement decided that the demographic (40+ yrs) was wrong and began catering to the under 30s.

        I really miss DIG; it was like listening to random selections of my collection interspersed with material I'd not heard before, particularly Australian music.

      2. /dev/null

        Re: My decorator...

        could they not cram the metadata* into the RDS part of the signal? (I really ought to know the correct terminology here)

        [*station name, frequency, programme, song title - what else do I need - I'll watch TV if I want pictures]

        Actually, that is exactly what they do nowadays - it's called the RDS RT (radio text) field. A fairly recent car radio with a big enough screen will show you it. No need for DAB to get that metadata!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: My decorator...

          Yeah the text display of my DAB radio never seems to tell me anything that RDS didn't.

          1. Gerry 3

            Re: My decorator...

            You DAB display will tell you that the DAB simulcast is mono whereas RDS will tell you th FM version is stereo.

  6. Pompous Git Silver badge

    Couple of things...

    I have a battery about the size of a mobile phone, but somewhat thicker that connects to my phone/Kindle when a recharge is needed. It's also capable of starting the car if needed and is also a flashlight.

    What use is radio in an emergency? As we are reminded every bushfire season in the Land of Under, local radio can tell you when to get out and where to go to find food and shelter. Your life may depend on this information.

    Merkins only need to watch this presumably...

    1. Fatman Silver badge

      Re: Couple of things...

      <quote>Merkins only need to watch this presumably...</quote>


      Two candidates for a Darwin award, completely oblivious to the simple fact that an escalator is a moving stairway, and all they need to do to be freed is to walk UP the dammed stairs.

      I bet they are part of some companies' C-suite.

      And the award for their stupidity -------------------------------------------------------->>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

  7. DanceMan

    No hurricanes here. I use the FM radio in my Q10 to listen to ad-free CBC radio 1 or 2 on the walk to the car or the bus. Anything that replaces it will have to have working FM.

  8. egreen99

    As others have pointed out, you need an external antenna of a meter or so in length to get decent reception. I have a Samsung Galaxy Note 8 with a Qualcomm modem chip that has the FM receiver hooked up to the headphone jack, but if I don't plug in my headphone cable, I don't pick up any signal. With it, I seem to pick up the same stations as in my auto.

    Given that Apple removed the headphone jack from the iPhone 7 and up, clearly it's not possible to enable the FM receiver in any of their new phones. There just isn't a physical antenna for that purpose.

  9. Mage Silver badge

    nor any suitable antennas

    Because as a Fashion Statement, with no technical merit, Apple don't fit the 3.5mm jack since iPhone 7. The earphone cable is the VHF-FM aerial on anything small.

    This is not an issue the FCC should be involved with. Phones are not sold as broadcast FM Radios, though personally I'd only buy one that has the function. Most phone FM radios are far better than any portable AM/FM set or any DAB Radio with FM available in normal retail outlets.

  10. /dev/null

    Think of the marketing...

    TBH, I can't imagine any smartphone marketing person getting very enthusiastic these days about a new feature that turns your super-retina displaying, 3D-face-recognizing, animoji-capable, machine-learning, augmented-reality-projecting smartphone into a pocket tranny from the 1950s.

  11. Nimby

    FM is Forever

    Personally, whenever I shop for a new phone, having an FM radio is at the top of my must-have feature list. But then I spent a lot of years in the company of Madison's Solid Rock, 94.1 WJJO. So maybe FM only matters to people who have (or had) access to good music through it.

    Still, when aliens invade and enslave humanity and radioactive hamsters from a planet near Mars nom on the datacenter cables, I'll still be able to listen in to the rag-tag gang of freedom fighters broadcasting from their mobile ad-hoc pirate radio.

    So would activating FM save lives in a hurricane? Some, but probably not many. Would it certainly help people pick up the pieces after a hurricane has torn up the infrastructure and left people with absolutely nothing First World? Definitely.

    I'm all for forcing everyone to include FM in phones for all NEW phones. And for companies choosing to push a software update IF their phone is capable. But forcing all existing phones to retroactively turn on the chip when proper connections to the headphone jack, USB port, or a real antenna has not been done? When real physical limitations make the chip useless, well that's just stupid.

  12. Ilsa Loving

    No headphone jack

    Suddenly the inexplicable desire to exclude the headphone jack makes sense.

    Apple et al can now honestly say that there's no point enabling the FM chip since there's no longer a way to connect an antenna. Before, they had no leg to stand on because there was absolutely nothing preventing them from enabling the functionality apart from greed.

    This is feeling like the whole "IE is a part of Windows" thing all over again.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    crap signal

    Ironically, it's not my phone that has the FM radio function, but a P.o.S. Insignia Flex (with no cellular capability) that has the FM tuner. Of course, living where I do there's all of *one* C&W station I can get, nothing else. We also get NO digital OTA TV stations, and cellular service is near nonexistent at our house. Heck, there's an actor just up the road from me that's done various commercials for *two* different cell companies, and I doubt he has a signal at his house either.

  14. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

    Earlier models had the FM block in the phone, but not hooked up. So there's no way to make it work there, either.

  15. bobajob12


    @El Reg: The fact that iPhone 7 and 8 don't have FM chips seems kind of critical to this story, no? And yet you bury this helpful little update at he end of the story on page 2. Whatever happened to "don't bury the lead"?

    The story has enough meat on it to stand alone, and not be smooshed together with the one on hurricane relief.


  16. Mikel

    As was pointed out by Apple today

    IPhones don't have FM radios in them. Haven't for years. Since the FCC certified the iPhones they should know this.

  17. Steve 114

    It's an age thing.

    Early multi-transistor radios has two markings on the tuning dial so that you wouldn't miss advice from Civil Defence while sitting under the stairs waiting for the fallout cloud to arrive.

    OT, but we were taught to whitewash the windows first. Of course the blast would break them, but not before they'd prevented the flash from setting the furniture alight. Happy days (yes really).

    1. Conundrum1885

      Re: It's an age thing.

      Is this why Oakleys used to say "Thermonuclear protection" ?

  18. Sigfried

    I guess though it would help if iPhones could actually receive and play FM radio signals. iPhone 7 & 8 don't have FM capable chips. iPhones 4-6 have an FM receiver as part of their modem chipsets but don't have FM aerials to receive the signals, but the earphone leads can sometimes act as that.

    Edit: ninja'd, not the first to point this out.

    So, maybe not a bad idea, but a bit of research could have made it clear that asking for something that can't actually be done isn't clever.

    Longer term, having some sort of digital emergency channel might not be a bad idea. Something like signing up for a regional based text feed so you can receive texts when an emergency is declared; sketchy, but maybe something could be developed.

  19. bigknob

    Apple being mean

    Every phone I've had for the last 15 years had FM radio so when I finally gave in and bought an iPhone I was shocked to find it did not have FM. Not surprised though to discover that the reason is the potential loss of revenue for poor old struggling Apple.



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